The PlayStation Store in China has been taken down, ostensibly to improve its security, after Chinese gamers were able to access foreign games.
The news comes via Reuters, who report that Sony suspended the PlayStation Store in China to (in Reuters own words) “saying it wanted to improve the online store’s security.” No reopening date was confirmed at this time.
The lack of a confirmed reopening date has led to speculation, such as if the was another or additional purpose behind the closure. Reuters state in their report that users in China were able to access overseas PlayStation stores, and buy games not licenced in China (and circumventing the Chinese censors).
Reuters claims that earlier in May a user on Chinese social media platform Weibo had stated he had reported the backdoor to authorities. This post was “later heavily criticised and shared by thousands of Chinese game enthusiasts.” In addition, Reuters claims they found vendors offering ways to get around the Chinese PlayStation Store restrictions for less than $5 USD.
The situation bears comparison to two fairly recent news stories. In the first, Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord‘s Chinese moderators have been accused of asking users to report those saying things that would violate Chinese law.
In the second, Animal Crossing: New Horizons was reportedly banned across China. While there was no confirmation as to why, the prevailing theory is that it was due to the game allowing users to express messages the Chinese government would usually ban, such as support for the Free Hong Kong protests.
This reportedly lead to (in Taiwan News’ words) “Local metropolises are scrambling to draft laws to expand the scope of online censorship in video games.” In short, this would ban Chinese gamers from interacting with foreigners via blocking foreign players access; along with map editing, customizing clothes, and “forming organizations.”